News Briefs

  • 12/12/2023

    Visix Optimizes User Experience with AxisTV Signage Suite v.1.74 Release

    Visix Logo

    Visix, Inc. has released version 1.74 of their AxisTV Signage Suite digital signage software. This latest update provides new widget options, automatic player updates, faster load and sync times, more intuitive scheduling workflows and other updates for a better user experience.

    “This release is laser focused on the client experience,” says Jill Perardi, Director of Professional Services for Visix. “We’ve always prided ourselves on being responsive to clients’ needs, and version 1.74 is a direct reflection of that. All of the features and enhancements in this release come directly from client requests. With these new workflows, our clients can spend less time scheduling their content and updating the system, and spend more time on communications and engagement.”

    The AxisTV Signage Suite CMS has had an overhaul with renamed and repositioned buttons to make content scheduling faster and more intuitive. A new workflow now allows clients to apply a single layout to a player in just minutes, while retaining the option to use a layout playlist for more variety on screens. Several backend updates now speed up page and image load times. Clients with large deployments can experience up to a 95% reduction in load time for certain workflows. Synchronizing content between the desktop designer and the CMS is also faster with this release.

    Several content design widgets in the software have been updated to provide more options. The popular Web Browser widget can now be used in tandem with the Program widget to allow web content to interrupt a scheduled playlist. The Event Text File widget can now retrieve files from a web URL, and the EMS Master Calendar widget now supports all versions of Master Calendar to accommodate legacy version users.

    As more clients move to remote work and, therefore, remote updates, Visix has reworked their software to treat digital signage players more like appliances, eliminating the need for clients to separately update their players and server. AxisTV Signage Suite v.1.74 installs a new turnkey service that enables future software versions to automatically update players without any hands-on requirements for clients. This not only saves time, but allows clients to keep up to date on the newest releases without any major infrastructure changes.

    Other version 1.74 enhancements include more standardized behaviors in the CMS, improved security for event widgets, support for TLS 1.3 and various bug fixes. Clients with a current support subscription get software updates for free, and those without can sign up for the subscription at any time.

  • 12/12/2023

    Hi Auto Debuts New AI Voice Cloning Feature at Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken

    Keith Byars with chicken box

    Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken, an early adopter of Hi Auto’s drive-thru voice AI ordering technology, plans to launch Hi Auto's new voice cloning feature as a test in its select Ohio drive-thru locations. Guests who visit Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken Ohio locations will be greeted with the voice of sports broadcaster and former NFL player Keith Byars. 

    Hi Auto’s voice cloning solution enables QSRs to incorporate fully customized voice options into their drive-thru voice AI ordering technology, resulting in a more  personalized and novel ordering experience, ultimately enhancing customer engagement.

    “Lee's has been blessed to partner with Hi Auto since December of 2020, utilizing their AI voice recognition technology to help our employees and restaurants through the pandemic. We look forward to implementing their latest innovation to make our customer's drive-thru experience the most unique experience in the Dayton market,” said Lee’s Famous Recipe  Chicken Owner and Operator Chuck Doran. "We’ve partnered with Keith Byars since his radio program launched 2018. The integrity, quality and excellence Keith brought to the football field and continues to bring to his broadcasts is what we strive to provide every customer that visits Lee’s. This is just one more step in that quest.”

    "Three years ago, Lee's embarked on a pioneering journey with Hi Auto, leveraging their cutting-edge artificial intelligence for our drive-thru orders, marking a milestone in operational efficiency and customer service," said Ryan Weaver, CEO of Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken. "This collaboration not only enhanced our labor efficiency by saving approximately 5-6 hours daily, but also significantly improved order consistency and upselling conversions."

    Hi Auto’s voice AI ordering technology, which is deployed in over 400 drive-thru locations across the U.S., is transforming how QSRs serve their customers by helping to optimize the deployment of valuable staff hours and improve the speed and accuracy of orders. Voice AI reduces the time employees spend taking orders from customers which translates to faster drive-through and pick-ups, shorter queues, and greater workforce efficiency, so employees can spend more time on more critical tasks. 

    AI voice cloning provides:

    • Geographical Comfort – providing voice or accent familiar to a particular region
    • Unique brand identity – leveraging personal custom voice to strengthen brand recognition
    • A more conversational experience
    • Better adoption of AI because it is more humanized
    • A more enriched drive-thru experience with a voice strategy that can change at different times of the day, during holidays, etc.
    • Local opportunity for "hometown" importance
  • 12/12/2023

    Waffle House to Roll Out Olo Across 1,950 Locations

    Waffle House sign

    Waffle House selected Olo to power digital ordering and payment across all of its locations nationwide. Marking the iconic restaurant brand’s first significant investment in digital, Waffle House will leverage Olo's  Order, Pay—including Borderless accounts—and Expo to streamline ordering and simplify payments for both guests and employees at scale.

    “Waffle House is focused on providing exceptional hospitality and good food at a great value to our Customers. Providing them with the best possible dine-in experience will always be our priority. Yet, we also recognize our Customers sometimes choose to enjoy our food outside of our four walls. So, we are thrilled to partner with Olo and offer an exceptional, online ordering experience to meet that need. Digital ordering and pay will streamline the ordering process from start to finish for our Customers and Associates,” said Patrick Marshburn, VP of Innovation & Strategy, Waffle House. “Digital innovation across our brand is a big step for Waffle House and, with Olo as a partner, we are excited about leveraging the strategic and financial value of Olo’s reliable platform as we offer digital ordering to our Customers.”

    Olo’s flexible platform serves as the ideal foundation for Waffle House to develop its next-level digital offerings. Waffle House is now offering direct online ordering for the first time through Olo Serve, Olo’s white-label web browser interface, and will soon launch its own Serve-based app for download in Q1 2024.

    With core ordering and Olo Pay payment processing, Waffle House will not only drive meaningful operational efficiencies across the front- and back-of-house, but also dramatically enhance the guest experience by offering the ability to place their orders online for pick-up to enjoy at-home or on-the-go with their Olo Borderless accounts. With these accounts, Waffle House will simplify the checkout process for guests by eliminating the need to remember a password or manually enter credit card information at every purchase for a frictionless experience.

    To date, Waffle House has deployed Olo’s Order and Pay product suites across approximately 1,600 of its 1,950+ locations, and Olo will continue to work closely with the brand to complete deployment at its remaining locations.

  • 12/12/2023

    Survey Finds 38% of Gen Z, Millennials Prefer Travel Agents to OTAs

    As we head into the 2023 holiday season, U.S. travelers are making the most of their vacation planning despite inflationary pressures and rising debt rates. In a recent survey commissioned by IBS Software, a provider of SaaS solutions to the travel industry, a record 47% of respondents are utilizing in-person or online travel agents (OTAs) to book their holiday trips due to convenience. Perhaps surprisingly is the younger generation’s preference for traditional travel agents (38% of Millennials and Gen Z) given the group’s well-documented preference for digital behaviors over analog. This is in stark contrast to Gen X and Boomers, only 12% and 2% of whom use the services of a traditional travel agent. Instead, Gen X far prefers to use OTAs when booking their holiday travel (35%). This renaissance of the travel agent amongst the younger generation has contributed to just 22% of respondents booking hotel stays and airline tickets directly through their vendor’s websites. 

    Travelers are Maximizing Savings for Holiday Booking 

    Of the groups surveyed, 92% plan to spend the same amount or more on their holiday travel this year. Among the top reasons for increased spending include taking a longer trip (46%), splurging on higher-rated hotels (43%), in addition to upgrading to more comfortable modes of transportation (43%).  

    In order to maximize on their savings, travelers across all age categories are attributing how they book their vacations to increased savings where they are available. Across Gen X (52%) and Gen Z groups (36%), those surveyed say their booking choice is based on where they will get the best deal - likely taking advantage of bundle deals travel agents and OTAs provide. Boomers, who overwhelmingly prefer booking directly on airline and hotel websites (63%), attribute their booking methods to increased savings available through loyalty programs.  

    Holiday Travel Destinations and Timelines Vary Across Age Categories 

    U.S. travelers are prioritizing booking their holiday travel over secondary trips like New Year’s Eve as an estimated 40% reported just traveling for the holidays and only 17% percent plan to take a trip for New Year’s. For those who are planning a New Year’s trip, Manhattan and Las Vegas are among the top destinations at 24% and 21% with just 15% of respondents reporting that they would go elsewhere. Among Gen Z travelers, Las Vegas is their New Year’s travel destination with 31% reporting it as their top choice.  

    Family-oriented vacations are a top priority among Boomers (51%) and Gen X Americans (30%). For Millennials, theme parks are rated among the top choice for holidays this year at 23% whilst a ski trip is among the top choice for Gen Z at 29%. For Americans surveyed overall however, snow and ski destinations rank higher at 26% compared to a theme park destination at just 21%. 

    With an estimated 57% waiting until November and December to finalize hotel and airline reservations, travelers are continuing to put off booking until the last minute. Millennials are among the top age category to put off travel bookings at 61% compared to Boomers and Gen X groups who are booking in the months of September and October.  

    What is Drawing Travelers to Hotels and What is Driving Them Away  

    Location, cleanliness, and overall hospitality are among the top factors travelers take into consideration/account when choosing which hotels to book their stay at. Boomers are primarily drawn to the location of their hotels as 60% stated that it was an important factor when booking. Reviews and recommendations from friends and family ranked at 39% and 35% respectively, followed by 35% attributing their choices to brand loyalty. Hotel amenities are also a deciding factor for U.S. travelers with 41% of respondents reporting that amenities are among the top factors when selecting a hotel. Despite this however, the most crucial factor in deciding on a hotel across all age groups is overall cleanliness.  

    For every amenity that encourages consumers to choose a hotel, there will always be situations that ultimately push them to reconsider their choice and either try to switch rooms or even leave the hotel altogether. Cleanliness was a top priority for consumers by a landslide with 48% admitting they would be pushed over the edge to leave a hotel if they experienced dirty sheets and bed bugs (55%). Other factors like inadequate bathroom facilities and noise complaints made up the second highest majority at 29%. 

    Steffan Berelowitz, Vice President and Head of the IBS Software Hospitality Business, saidThe most surprising finding from our survey was the fact that younger travelers, Millennials and Gen Z, prefer to book with traditional travel advisors at a higher rate than the older Gen X cohorts. We all think of younger travelers as digital natives, wedded to their phones and social media, and yet counterintuitively, they’re seeking more personal connection.  There’s an important lesson there for us to question these stereotypes, we plan to invest a great deal more in understanding the needs of this future generation of travelers.” 

    Methodology  

    This online survey of 2000 US Adults who are considering a vacation this Christmas/ New Year (domestic or international) was commissioned by Fight or Flight and conducted by market research company OnePoll, in accordance with the Market Research Society's code of conduct. Data was collected between 27/11/23 and 28/11/23. All participants are double-opted in to take part in research and are paid an amount depending on the length and complexity of the survey. This survey was overseen and edited by the OnePoll research team. OnePoll are MRS Company Partners, corporate membership of ESOMAR and Members of the British Polling Council.  

  • 12/11/2023

    Juice Bar Franchise Uses AI Solution to Field Callers' Questions

    Voicify Pure Green

    A Pure Green juice bar franchise has selected Voicify as its conversational voice AI provider.

    Voicify AI Answering uses natural language to field customer questions such as 'What hours are you open?'; 'Do you deliver?'; 'Tell me about your menu.'; and 'May I place an order?'. At customer request, Voicify AI Answering sends an SMS text with a link to the Pure Green menu, store directions, and online ordering platform. The system continually learns and improves based on customer questions.

    Pure Green has more than 100 franchise locations in 15 states.  

    Voicify AI Answering is available through a monthly fee that it says will quickly pay for itself in crew labor savings and additional customer spend.

    As consumers have become more comfortable with non-human customer service and Artificial Intelligence solutions in general, they are more open to interacting conversationally by phone with a frontline AI assistant. Voicify AI Answering is optimized to handle natural human speech. This means that customers can speak normally without modifying their speech at all. As needed or at customer request, the AI Answering assistant can connect the caller with human store staff.

    Voicify AI Answering will enable Pure Green franchises to harness voice AI to free up store staff to fulfill orders and serve in-store guests without neglecting customers who call the store. 

    "We're on a mission to build healthier communities by connecting people with superfoods," said Pure Green Franchise Founder Ross Franklin. "Voicify AI Answering helps us fulfill our mission by making it incredibly easy for our customers to connect with their local Pure Green Franchise superfoods location and our healthy cold-pressed juices and smoothies. The vast majority of caller questions - hours of operation, directions, and so on - can be answered by Voicify AI. It's like having an extension of our team."

    Voicify's suite of tools transforms guest experiences across multiple points of service with seamless deployment and can scale to any size restaurant operation. Designed to deploy quickly and integrate directly with existing phone, POS, kiosk and other restaurant technologies,  Voicify sets the standard for conversational AI by learning quickly and delivering intelligent and reliable performance for any situation.

  • 12/12/2023

    Ferit Ferhangil Named CEO of Waramaug Hospitality

    Waramaug Board of Directors

    Waramaug Hospitality, a privately held hotel investor and asset manager in the U.S., announced that current partner and principal Ferit Ferhangil will become its Chief Executive Officer, effective January 1. Ferhangil will succeed Leslie Ng, who will assume the position of Co-Vice Chairman and will focus on the company’s acquisitions by leveraging his extensive contacts. In addition to Ng and Ferhangil, the company board will include Evren Unver as Co-Vice Chairman and Paul Nussbaum as Chairman.

    The strategic decision reflects the company’s continued commitment to its future growth as a best-in-class hotel investor positioned to capitalize on today’s challenging market conditions. It is also the culmination of a year-long planned transition, which follows two years during which HazelStream Capital and its principals Evren Unver and Ferit Ferhangil became deeply engaged as partners of Waramaug.

    Waramaug Hospitality is recognized for its ability to source unique investment opportunities, add value through upgrades to its portfolio hotels, and deliver industry-leading risk-adjusted returns for its capital partners.

    “Over the course of the past few years, Paul and I have gotten to know Evren and Ferit well and feel extremely fortunate to have found like-minded partners who share the same global vision, ambitious outlook, and moral compass for all that we do at Waramaug,” said Leslie Ng, Co-Vice Chairman, Waramaug Hospitality. “With his broad-based experience, Ferit is the perfect individual to take our company to the next level; our future is bright with Ferit at the helm.”

    “It has been a pleasure for Evren and me to work with the talented and seasoned team at Waramaug for the past two years following our investment into Waramaug in 2021 and into its portfolio hotels since then. I look forward to working with my partners Paul, Leslie, and Evren to further grow Waramaug,” said Ferit Ferhangil, CEO, Waramaug Hospitality. “The Waramaug platform is built on the depth and quality of the relationships we have built with capital partners, lenders, hotel franchisors, management companies, and the brokerage community. Our success is attributable to these relationships and our team's integrity, reliability, expertise, and acumen. I look forward to building upon Paul and Leslie’s decades of leadership and thank them and Evren for their trust in me to lead the next evolution of our business.”

    With more than 30 years of experience in commercial real estate, hospitality, and finance, Ferhangil joined Waramaug in 2021 as a partner and principal, following HazelStream Capital’s investment in the company. He has previously been a CEO or board member of several real estate companies, hospitality industry groups, and financial institutions. Ferit has a master’s in business administration from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

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